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Work began on the West Australian Biographical Index (WABI) in the early 1970s when information was sought on people who lived in Western Australian prior to 1914. Publicity was sent out through local libraries, historical groups and in publication such as the West Australian. Western Australians were asked to provide genealogical information, not only on prominent identities, but also from their family records including the arrival in Western Australia, occupations, dates of birth, marriages and deaths of their ancestors. Historical material such as diaries, letters, business records, minute books, maps, family trees and photographs, were also sought for copying.

Entries for the index closed in December 1979, and were filed at the Battye Library for reference. Rica and a growing band of helpers sorted through the flood of information that arrived and also methodically went through resource material at the Battye Library. They searched through passenger lists, church registers, the WA almanacs and directories, the index to the WA Government Gazettes, and old newspapers such as the Inquirer and Perth Gazette to find additional details. All this information was condensed and handwritten on individual cards and sorted alphabetically by surname.

Until the end of 1979 Rica had kept all this research material in her Nedlands home. The study was filled with the files and shoeboxes of material, and the room was so full, she had to crouch under the card table she worked on to get to the chair to her desk. Battye Library staff came to the rescue and provided both work and storage space. Rica would regularly work at the library on Mondays to update and revise the biographical files.

The material collected was microfilmed and the reels of microfilm and her biographical cards are widely used for genealogical research in the Battye Library. The cards contain summarised information and may include date of arrival in Western Australia, dates of births, deaths and marriages of family members, where they lived and occupation.



In 1987 Rica Erickson was made an honorary life member of the WA Genealogical Society and unanimously elected to the position of Fellow of the Western Australian Genealogical Society. The honour was in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the science and practice of family history in Western Australia through the compilation of the Western Australian Biographical Index and the editing of the Dictionary of Western Australia 1829-1914.




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